Thanks to a roughly $40 million investment from Canfor Corporation, the Elko sawmill will be receiving an upgrade this year.
The sawmill enhancement will take place throughout 2013 and will include upgrades to the mill, increased kiln drying capacity, and the construction of a Greenfield planer mill complex. Canfor’s contribution is part of a multi-year capital investment program aimed to enhance productivity and cost performance across the company.
“I think the critical point here for the [East Kootenays] is that Canfor has sent a very strong signal that they intend to keep the Elko mill open and operating for the long term,” stated Bill Bennett, Kootenay East MLA. “You don’t invest $40 million into something and a year later, announce that you’re going to shut it down.”
Canfor bought the Elko sawmill as well as the Canal Flats sawmill in a deal that was announced in 2011 and closed last March.
Bennett explained that with the purchase of the two mills, along with the Radium mill that they previously owned, Canfor had become the owner of the three main sawmills operating in the East Kootenays.
“Rumors were swirling, and I think there was fact supporting the rumors that they would close one of the mills,” he remarked. “To have them make such a strong statement in terms of their confidence in the future, I think is very, very good news for our end of the valley.”
The upgrade process will get started in the first quarter of the year and is expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2013.
Bennett believes the project means only good things for the East Kootenays.
“Anytime that you have $40 million being spent in this region, it has a multiplier effect.
“Anybody that’s in the construction business, or steel working business, or welding, mechanical, carpentry, anything like that, stands to benefit from this expansion.”
He added, “It may or may not be true that the $40 million investment will mean a whole bunch of new jobs, I’m not sure about that.
“But what it does mean is that the jobs that we have there now, the families who depend on that sawmill, who live in Fernie and Elko and the Jaffrey area and over to Cranbrook, their jobs are secure.”